NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, July 14th, 2018

Meet the 2018 contenders in Washington’s 8th Congressional District: Jason Rittereiser

Republicans have dominated Washington’s 8th Congressional District since its creation in the 1980s. As most readers of the Cascadia Advocate are likely aware, entrenched incumbent Dave Reichert is retiring this year after spending over a decade as the district’s representative and Democrats are eager to seize this opportunity to change the district’s leadership in Congress.

One of the Democratic contenders fighting for a spot on the November ballot is former prosecutor and labor lawyer Jason Rittereiser. Rittereiser is competing against two other Democratic candidates (Shannon Hader and Kim Schrier), to see who will advance to the autumn ballot with Republican Dino Rossi.

Rittereiser started his career as a criminal prosecutor for King County in the Special Assault Unit and the Violent Crime Unit. He says this experience gave him the ability to see a part of society that many people ignore.

“It allows you to interact with folks who are disadvantaged, who are often cast to the side of society, and understanding some of the challenges those folks face is important,” he said in an interview with NPI.

When he transitioned into private practice, Rittereiser wanted to work for a firm that reflected his values and stood up against powerful interests. He became a labor and employment lawyer, representing thousands of Washington workers in the fight against wage theft, wrongful termination, and unequal pay.

For his work, Jason received the Young Lawyer of the Year award from the King County Bar Association in 2017.

He brought the first cases to protect nursing mothers and domestic violence victims in the workplace in the State of Washington.

He links the proudest moments of his career with the cases that allowed him to bring a voice to people who otherwise would not have had one.

He hopes to continue this advocacy if elected into Congress.

“These are battles that I’ve been on the front lines for and fundamentally understand how laws effect people in their everyday lives,” Rittereiser observed.

“I think I can have an influence in how Congress crafts law to protect people rather than powerful interests and corporations.”

Rittereiser says what sets him apart from other candidates in the race is his connection to the eastern part of the district, which includes cities like Wenatchee. It’s an area that has historically voted overwhelmingly Republican.

As Rittereiser puts it: “I’m the only candidate ever [and the only] Democrat ever, to run in this district who is born and raised in Eastern Washington. I grew up in the district but on the other side of the mountains, and if we’re going to win this district we’re going to have to connect with voters everywhere.”

A defining characteristic of the 8th District is that it spans the Cascades, encompassing both urban and rural communities, Mountains. Rittereiser hopes to unite both sides of the range and reach people in all corners of the district.

“I think that people have the same concerns on both sides of the mountains”, Rittereiser said, adding that even if different communities and constituencies might approach issues from a different perspective, issues like childcare, education, healthcare, transportation, and tariffs are major concerns for people everywhere in the district — regardless of party affiliation.

If elected, Rittereiser’s first priority would be to pass a major infrastructure investment bill. In a polarized Congress, he notes infrastructure as an issue that Democrats and Republicans have the ability to work together on.

He specifically mentioned the need to update Washington’s energy grid to make full use of the renewable energy technology in the 8th District.

He also mentioned the need for infrastructure investments to help the 700,000 homes in the state that don’t have access to broadband technology.

Trump’s foreign policy agenda is another major concern for Jason. He expressed concern that the president’s two hundred and thirty two tariffs on steel and aluminum, and China’s subsequent retaliatory tariffs, will have significant impact on farmers and farming communities in the 8th District.

Rittereiser was clear-eyed when talking about the danger of Trump’s foolish posturing on trade, noting that no one wins in a trade war. “China has retaliated by listing significant agricultural products on the tariff list. That includes apples, and cherries, and soybeans, all of which are grown in this district.”

He hopes to increase congressional oversight and involvement in negotiating trade deals — something that he says incumbent Dave Reichert is failing to do.

Rittereiser has secured many endorsements from labor unions and labor councils around Washington. Some of these include Washington State Council of Fire Fighters, Washington State Labor Council, Renton Firefighters Local 864, Pile Drivers and Divers Local 196, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 286, and the Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local 66.

Many of these unions and organizations cite Jason’s knowledge of workers’ rights and experience standing up to powerful interests as the reason for their support.

“Jason’s experience holding billion-dollar corporations accountable for mistreating their workers gives us confidence that he will be a leader on these issues in Congress, not just a good vote”, said Jeff Johnson, the retiring President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

(The WSLC has also endorsed Kim Schrier.)

Rittereiser points to this election as one of the most consequential elections in his lifetime. “We can’t overstate the importance of this race”, he said.

“There’s twenty-three seats we need to take back in order to control the United States House of Representatives, and whether or not Democrats take back control of the House will determine where our country is in fifteen and twenty years.”

Only a few weeks remain before the deadline arrives to return ballots in the August Top Two election. They’re due to be mailed next week.

This year, for the first time in Washington State history, it won’t be necessary to put a stamp on the return envelope to return it through the U.S. Mail. Prepaid postage on ballot return envelopes has had a positive effect in smaller scale tests. Next month, it faces its first big test, with potential implications for the marquee multi-county contest for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 8th.

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